The mining newspaper for Alaska and Canada's North

WAC&G consolidates Illinois Creek District

Mining Explorers 2020 - Published January 19, 2021

Western Alaska Copper & Gold focused it's 2020 program on investigating the potential of restarting operations at the past producing Illinois Creek gold-silver mine near the Yukon River about 65 miles southwest of the town of Galena and 120 miles north of the Donlin Gold Mine project.

In 2018, Western Alaska and Piek Exploration formed a joint venture to consolidate the entire Illinois Creek district, a 34,240-acre land package that blankets the Illinois Creek mine project; Round Top, a porphyry copper-molybdenum-silver deposit; Honker, a high-grade gold target; and Water Pump Creek, a carbonate replacement zinc-lead-silver deposit.

"One of the many strengths of the Illinois Creek district is the presence and ongoing discovery of a series of deposits with varying metals. This gives WAC&G the flexibility to focus on what's economically robust at any given time," said Western Alaska Copper & Gold CEO Kit Marrs.

Given the strength of precious metals prices, resuming operations at Illinois Creek, a heap-leach operation that produced roughly 150,000 ounces of gold and 500,000 oz of silver during three years of mining between 1996-2002, is the most compelling prospect.

The abbreviated operation at Illinois Creek, cut short by financial hardship and low gold prices, left plenty of precious metals in the ground.

According to a 2019 resource calculation, 6.76 million metric tons of indicated resource averaging 1.04 grams per metric ton (226,000 oz) gold and 34.3 g/t (7.5 million oz) silver; plus 2.03 million metric tons of inferred resource averaging 1.06 g/t (70,000 oz) gold and 38.8 g/t (2.5 million oz) of silver has been outlined beneath the previously mined pit at Illinois Creek.

This does not count gold and silver remaining on the heap-leach pad, which could provide early material for a restart of operations.

"The ability to jump start a mining operation with existing run-of-mine material with these values is a real plus, and could potentially provide funding for the initial capital costs," said Joe Piekenbrock, founder of Piek Exploration and current chief exploration officer for Western Alaska.

During 2020, Western Alaska drilled 73 reverse circulation holes to quantify the gold, silver, and copper on the heap leach pad, as well as collect samples for metallurgical testing to determine the optimum process for recovering these metals.

Based on this drilling, it has been calculated that the heap leach pad hosts roughly 1.5 million metric tons of material averaging 0.5 g/t (25,000 oz) gold, 45 g/t (2.2 million oz) silver, and 0.45% (15 million pounds) copper.

Western Alaska's 2020 program also included a soil sampling program to look for extensions of the unmined Illinois Creek deposits.

Results from this sampling, along with a compilation of historic drilling and soil data, has identified a 1,000-meter-long untested area of the main gold-rich Illinois Creek structure that has been offset by a fault to the northeast.

"Drilling will be needed to test this structure, but it could add a significant near-surface open pit resource," Western Alaska penned in a summary of its 2020 program.

The company said processing of historical soil sampling data has also identified several new shallow targets adjacent to previously mined pits that show excellent potential to significantly expand the Illinois Creek gold-silver resource.

A preliminary economic assessment that outlines plans for reprocessing the material on the heap leach pad and mining extensions of the Illinois Creek deposit is slated for completion this year.

Western Alaska is also investigating Honker, a potential source of high-grade gold ore about six miles north of Illinois Creek.

A gold-rich quartz vein that is one to five meters thick has been traced for 800 meters at Honker. Historical bulk samples collected from Honker averaged 26.5 g/t gold and 26.8 g/t silver.

Metallurgical testing shows this mineralization is amenable to heap leach recovery, indicating Honker could be a good source of satellite ore for Illinois Creek.

In recent years, Western Alaska has completed 9,933 meters of drilling in 40 holes at Round Top, a large porphyry copper-gold deposit about 10 miles northeast of the Illinois Creek Mine that first drew geologists to the area in 1980.

As a geologist for Anaconda Copper, Marrs and his wife Joan were involved with the original discovery at Round Top and then the wider Illinois Creek district.

Highlights from recent drilling at Round Top include 64.7 meters of 0.65% copper-equivalent; 166 meters of 0.51% copper-equivalent; 209.7 meters of 0.28% copper-equivalent; and 64 meters of 0.74% copper-equivalent.

Western Copper plans to compile the results from drilling at Round Top into a maiden resource for the copper-gold deposit.

The Illinois Creek district also hosts Waterpump Creek, a carbonate hosted deposit just northeast of the Illinois Creek Mine with 166,000 tons of historical resource averaging 16.1% zinc, 5.5% lead and 9.5 g/t silver.

With Western Alaska working toward reestablishing a mine at Illinois Creek and so much exploration potential to follow-up on across the wider property, the privately held Alaska-based company is working towards an initial public offering on Canada's TSX Venture Exchange.

The IPO and TSX-V listing is slated for completion in March.

Author Bio

Shane Lasley, Publisher

Author photo

Over his more than 16 years of covering mining and mineral exploration, Shane has become renowned for his ability to report on the sector in a way that is technically sound enough to inform industry insiders while being easy to understand by a wider audience.


Reader Comments(0)